I went out walking again tonight, and I thought about what my life had been before the darkness came to swallow us up, and felt sad that it was gone. Reckon that’s a universal sentiment right now, though hell, it still felt rotten to me—rotten all over again even, no less painful than it had felt any of the other thousands of times I have done such thinking in the last year. What can you do anymore, really, other than think about all the alternatives to this, which of course means to remember The Time Before. And for some reason, in all that ruminating, I remembered The Girl From Estonia, whom I had met when I was living in Berlin last winter. I met her through Jess, my friend from Chicago who also moved to Berlin when I did, though I don’t know how she knew her, and maybe neither did she. AT MY SUGGESTION, we all met at CAKE in Kreuzberg, and hung out in the back room smoking rolled cigarettes and drinking cheap cocktails. Being in the back was also my idea: I was attempting to avoid the accidental gaze of the French bartender, because I was in love with her, and I didn’t want her to be able to figure that out by looking at me. I imagined it had to be plainly obvious, and I was lying low that night, on account of my company. There was no sense making them bear witness to my puppy-dogging.

Anyway: The Girl From Estonia was so cool. She was really funny too. Mostly I talked to her while Jess talked to this other girl we were with, who I remember had a huge bag of cocaine in her purse (lol). And so TGFE and I had a good ol time together, and she was cryptic and psychic in the way those Eastern Bloc types are, which is why I like them so much. She was surprised I knew anything at all about Estonia, which I guess I kinda did, though not much. They have really good healthcare and colleges . . . all of which you access through this Citizen Card issued by the government that does absolutely everything. In a country that small, something like that almost sounds quaint. I knew that much at least, cuz I’d watched some documentary about Estonia when I was living in absolute misery in Portland. I said: “There are only like a million and a half of you, which is wild.” And she told me there weren’t even that many Estonians. TO WHICH I REPLIED: “Whoa.”

We all ended up at this former underground Soviet bank vault that had been converted into a club, because of course it had, what with it being Berlin and all. I stuck close to TGFE while Jess and Cocaine Girl danced in the depths of the pit. It was loud, so we had to speak into each other’s ears. She told me she lived close to my apartment, and we agreed to hang out sometime, because Why Not. And then we went into a dark room lit only by a red light which shone through two square windows on the black doors. Inside everyone was lying on these pleather foam pads, and so we did too. I told TGFE that the United States was a nightmare and that I never wanted to go back. She listened for a while as I uttered mountains of space trash about god knows what. And afterward, as if gazing into a crystal ball, she seemed to guess at an unassailable truth about me, some grand totem of my existence, and it sent a black streak of terror straight down my spine. I told her as much and she laughed. I won’t say what it was she guessed, though man, she sure did read my dumbass brain like a god darn book. I thought: “Yeah, this girl rules.” And then I took this picture to remember her by:

I never saw The Girl From Estonia again. I had to leave the country a few weeks later, on account of covid and visas and all that shit. Sometimes I wondered what had happened to her. Tonight I did something about it, and I sent her a message. I said she was cool and that I wish we had gotten to hang out, and that I will soon have an EU passport, and that we should meet up in some other former underground Soviet bank vault again sometime, whenever and wherever that may be. She replied immediately from many timezones away:

Wow! That’s just about the best reply I could have hoped to receive. And I had never seen that picture of Jess and me before . . . we look like siblings. A little memory!! Aw.

Well. . . .